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Should I bother to complain about this privatised homework scheme?

(67 Posts)
Caligula Sun 27-Mar-05 16:28:18

My DS's school recently sent home a leaflet about some kind of private homework scheme, which consists of some marketing and education guy coming round and assessing your child, then drawing up a homework plan for them until they are 11 (because we have the 11+ in Kent), with the threat that if you don't buy it (at £64 per term or something ridiculous like that) a) your child will be less likely to pass the 11+, because only 25% of kids do, and you don't want your kid to be in the other 75%, do you and b) you are obviously an uncaring, feckless kind of parent who is too busy spending money on piano lessons, swimming lessons and all those other unnecessary extra-curricular things that won't help your child to pass the 11+ and therefore receive a semblance of an education in Kent (salesman actually said to my friend that they didn't bother to go and assess children in houses on such a such a council estate because none of the parents there cared enough about their kids to commit to the programme).

Pontius-Pilate like, the letter from the school said that they didn't endorse the scheme, but thought some parents might be interested. I was quite annoyed actually. I don't think the school should be acting as the Direct Marketing department of this private company which is using scare tactics to sell its academic product. (It's taken school time and resources to send letters and leaflets to every parent.) And I'm sure its academic product is perfectly good, but shouldn't the school be teaching my child to pass the 11+, if that is the function of education in my area (which it appears to be - I may not like it, but if that's what they think their job is, shouldn't they be doing it, rather than sending me info about a private company who does it?)

I'm sort of outraged by it, but I'm so used to being outraged by life in general, that I no longer know what's worth making a fuss about!

JanH Sun 27-Mar-05 16:32:30

I would hate this too, but I suppose the school will have got commission for sending the stuff round, which probably justifies it for them. (I would be interested to know how much, if I'm right!)

tigi Sun 27-Mar-05 16:56:42

i don't think schools can spend more than 3 hours preparing for the 11+. This is because they like all pupils to go 'blind' into it, such as like a level playing field, but of course many parents will work with their children, or odd ones hire a tutor.
The exam should though cover sats aspects of work, which the teachers will cover. my son sits his this year too, but i will buy practice papers and workbooks to do with him, to find the best way of tackling the questions, which I'm sure a tutor would do anyway. So I will save my money!

Caligula Sun 27-Mar-05 17:54:26

Why will you buy extra books Tigi? What happens if a child doesn't pass his Sats? Are there any long term repurcussions for him?

Freckle Sun 27-Mar-05 20:57:20

I don't see the point in coaching pupils to pass the 11+ by setting masses of extra work. It's sensible to get them to sit some past papers so that they are familiar with the format and procedure, but, if your child can't pass without extra tuition, they probably aren't grammar school material in the first place and would struggle once there.

I sent DS1 to a tutor at the beginning of last summer (he sat the exam in January) so she could check out if he had any weak areas and then had him sit a few practice papers to familiarise himself with the format and timing, etc.

Any more than that and you aren't doing your child any favours by trying to get them into a school which they aren't suited to. If they are grammar school material, they should pass without extra effort required.

I too object to the schools acting as some sort of marketing outlet for these companies. It's almost like the school has sold our names and addresses to a commercial enterprise. And I do know of some people who thing that the company "must be OK or why would the school send the letter home".

ladymuck Sun 27-Mar-05 21:07:04

Freckle, wouldn't it depend on what the alternative schools were like, and how your child responded to coaching. Tutoring/coaching won't help all pupils to pass, but some exam technique practice and so on can help a child get through 11+ without meaning that the child will necessarily suffer when at grammar school.

Perhaps it depends on what competition is like. I'm in Greater London where grammar schools are few to be found. The competition for spaces is immense - far more so than for the local indpendents say. I know of no parent who has wanted their child at a grammar school who hasn't either helped coach their children or paid a tutor to do so.

Caligula Sun 27-Mar-05 21:12:02

You are kidding LM. I'm just assuming that my child's primary school will coach them because the grammar school system exists. Do they not do that then? Does one really have to pay for a private tutor?

MunchedTooManyMarsLady Sun 27-Mar-05 21:15:57

No need to pay out for expensive schemes. Once the DTs are in bed I'll post a list of the books that I used to get DS1 into the local grammar school. hth. I hate the fact that some marketing firm could come into school and prey on our worst fears about our kids and their success or lack thereof in school.

ladymuck Sun 27-Mar-05 21:19:34

I guess it depends where you live and how many grammar schools there are. If you're in an area where a third of secondary places are in grammar schools then you just need to know whether your child is obviously in the top third or so of your school class (how many of your school end up at the grammar school - this is a pretty key indicator). In my area the "best" primary schools tend to get just under a third of their pupils into selctive secondary schools (ie both grammar and independent), and in general this is with additional coaching. But this may be far from representative for your area. I know that none of the schools locally do any preparation for 11+. If you're in a grammar school area then the grammar schools tend to attract the most able pupils, thereby pushing down the average ability at the other schools.

All generalisations and you need to look at your area. School secretaries will probably have this info to hand.

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Mar-05 21:20:18

Caligula, I agree with you and I know the feeling of not being sure whether to be outraged (!) but feeling it anyway, a VERY similar thing happened to me, details on this thread . I complained, the head and I had a terse conversation and I think he'll think twice before doing it again. I also spoke to a governor about it but I doubt much was done, except they might think twice another time. It's very bad practice imo and out of order, if you want me to see if I can find the letter I wrote to my school I'll have a look. Our school was paid a certain amount per returned form, bet yours was too. You can be even more outraged at that!

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Mar-05 21:22:45

AND, and, and, in our school the children were given a special certificate FFS (usually only given for hard work/good behaviour) IF they pestereed their parents into returning the form EVEN IF WE DIDN'T WANT TO BUY THE PRODUCT, which was extra study! I was apoplectic.

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Mar-05 21:23:59

So they were persuading the children to persuade the parents to give children's names, ages, dobs, addresses, postcodes to a private company and for every one returned (i.e. added to their mailing list) the school got tupppence or something. Disgusting.

yoyo Sun 27-Mar-05 21:25:13

We had these a year or so ago and had an accompanying letter urging us to return the forms even if not interested as the school would receive money for every form returned. A friend had them around and found it quite a hard sell but declined in the end.

JanH Sun 27-Mar-05 21:28:56

www, I thought the tone of the letter Caligula quoted - "they didn't endorse the scheme, but thought some parents might be interested" - suggested that they weren't collecting tuppences for each one returned but probably got a small lump sum in returning for handing them out. (Still annoying of course but not quite so enraging as yours - I remember yours! )

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Mar-05 21:34:06

True Janh, true, maybe I am just Ms disgusted of Disgused Land today! I bet they didn't actually use school resources in Caligula's case, although it might have looked like they did. In our school's case the company printed the letters and provided all the stationery but used the school's logo and a scanned in copy of the head's signature, so my point about use of school resources was discounted on that basis. <sigh> Oh well, so THAT'S all right then!

hatsoff Sun 27-Mar-05 21:36:38

we got one of these letters too - dd is 4!!! Again the letter (which had clearly been written by the company, not the school) said they don't endorse it but thought we might be interested. What really pissed me off was they really demanded a reply - even if we weren't interested. At the time I had already been stroppy about another school issue and we took dd out of school for a week, so didn't feel up to kicking up another fuss, but now I think about it I kind of wish I had.

Freckle Sun 27-Mar-05 21:41:13

LM, coaching in exam technique is all very well. The tutoring I was referring to is the intensive tuition in English and Maths to ensure a child passes the exam. The 11+ is meant to be a test of a child's intelligence at a certain age, and tutoring a child to lift their ability above its natural level would skew the results.

Having said that, I know of lots of parents who truly believe that their child would not have passed without extra tuition. The reason for this is that some schools coach their pupils pretty intensively for the 11+, whereas others do nothing at all (the nothing at all approach is what the grammar schools prefer). Unfortunately for some of the tutored/coached children, they will pass the exam but then struggle to cope at grammar school. As each child is competing with all other children taking the exam, you can understand why some parents feel that employing a tutor for their child is merely levelling the playing field.

ladymuck Sun 27-Mar-05 21:47:39

Must still be a difficult choice for parents though - is your child better off getting into grammar school but being in the bottom 25%, or going to a school which gets significantly worse results but where your child might be in the top 25% or 50%. I guess standards of behavious etc must have an impact on your choice...

KathH Sun 27-Mar-05 21:56:58

our dd1 & dd2's school sent some similar info to us and we filled in a form to say we'd like more details - big mistake. They will not leave us alone now and at one point were ringing on a weekly basis trying to arrange an assessment even tho dh told them to bugger off.

Caligula Sun 27-Mar-05 22:03:37

I've just read www's thread and I think this might be something You and Yours on R4 might be interested in.

This is quite disgusting. We also had two day's notice to return the form. I just didn't bother, but 2 friends of mine did, just so they could waste the company's time and find out what the hell was going on (one of them is a parent governer - and hadn't been consulted about it at all.) They were pretty shocked by the cost and the implication that if you didn't buy it, your kids was going to end up a McDonald's employee at the very best.

JanH Sun 27-Mar-05 22:07:09

So they were trying to make you return it???

Caligula Sun 27-Mar-05 22:22:49

Yes, I'd forgotten that detail - it got sent home on Tuesday and we had to return it by Thursday. So in effect, only Wednesday to discuss with other parents, question it, challenge it etc.

WideWebWitch Sun 27-Mar-05 22:24:55

Cheeky. I think they were depending on people just doing it, a lot of people in our school did from what I gather. NOt one parent I spoke to was bothered though! Bet they are now when they're getting mountains of crap coming through from these people.

hatsoff Sun 27-Mar-05 22:28:18

we too had two days to return it - sounds like the same company

JanH Sun 27-Mar-05 22:30:48

Oh well then, defo get on to You and Yours about it, you lot! (What's the company called?)

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